I gave this book a 4 star rating for the main reason that I really liked it.
I think when books have a title that has a double meaning it’s a point up for the author. The Scandalous Lady is the name of a red diamond necklace, but it also refers to Lady Rebecca. She has led a sheltered life and was ill so often that her parents over-protected her. So at 21 she is finally healthy with but one relapse. That relapse had her on her deathbed, so she feels that she doesn’t have much time left. Soo, craving adventure, Lady Rebecca poses nude for a painting meant to be hung in a private home in France. Unfortunately, though, the artist sold it to a local men’s club instead…and to jack up the price told them that the seductive woman whose face is in dark shadows, and nude body is bathed in candlelight, is a woman of the ton.
Let the scandal begin.
Julian and his two best friends are staying late at their gentlemen’s club going on about who the woman in the painting could be, when 3 young boys sneak in to catch a glimpse of the painting…the men don’t think anything other than “boys will be boys,” until those curious little lads try to steal it! Oh, wait, they aren’t boys after all, but 3 proper misses from the peerage! And Julian knows without a doubt that Rebecca is the woman, for that painting and Rebecca both wear the Scandalous Lady-a rare diamond that had been gifted to his family by an Indian maharajah…and stolen 10 years ago! Now it shows up between Lady Rebecca’s lovely breasts.
He and his buddies each wager against the ladies that they will find out who the model truely is, since each girl said she was the model-to protect Rebecca.
This is where someone else notices the jewel and threatens Rebecca. Rebecca runs to a train station, and Julian follows. They try to make their way cross country with only the money in their pockets, and by traveling on public carts and staying in crappy ale houses. She thinks of everything as a grand adventure, while he looks at it realistically. The two of them learn to trust each other, and how to rely on each other. It’s very sweet.
One thing that bothered me at first was that Rebecca had this whole “I got shafted as a child because my parents were afraid I’d get sick and never let me play.” Boo frickin hoo princess. Except she grows. By staying in public houses, she sees that a lot of people, and children, don’t have that priveleged childhood she so resented. One line I really liked was “And what did she want to escape…parties where she ate the best food, wore the most expensive clothing? She wanted to bury her face against him so she wouldn’t have to confront the truth about herself.”
She finally started to understand that her life hadn’t sucked. And she grew up. I liked that in her.
Of course they found who wanted the jewel back, and why. That was an interesting turn on a villain I must say. But also, they fell in love. I think that the two friends of Julian’s, and Rebecca’s sister and cousin-all parts of the wager- might have their own books in the works. Their parts were left very open, and at one point Rebecca says that they can’t wait to see how their friends’ stories turn out.
I loved the epilogue, but I wish we had seen Julian and Rebecca return a certain farmer’s horse and check in on a sick child who Rebecca had helped nurse. it would have completed the story better IMHO.
But maybe I’m being generous with 4 stars, I don’t know…I’ll say this. While the writing wasn’t superb, and the story of the stolen diamond could have played a bigger role, rather than just the reason for their “adventure,” I enjoyed the book. Can’t say much more than that.